Family & Relationships

Connected Thoughts: Sean Hudson

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Sean Hudson is a Brand Curriculum Development Lead at Pfizer.

He’s had 23 years of experience with healthcare companies since earning his MBA. Get Old spoke with him about balancing work with the other dimensions of life, from the perspective of a father who barely knew his parents.

On tragedy at a tender age. “My mother died from cancer when I was seven. My father died a year later from a heart attack. For years I believed he died from a broken heart. Maybe he did.”

His early vision of life: “I was convinced I wouldn’t live long. Until my 30s, I celebrated each birthday like it was my last.”

On courage: “We didn’t have a lot of family left after my parents died. My great-grandmother stepped up to raise us. She had already raised her kids and even some of her grandkids. She was in her mid-70s and ready for a quiet retirement. She put all that aside for us.”

On starting his career: “Back in the 90s there was a typical career pattern after business school. Get your first job. Use that to land a better job. Then find an organization you can grow with. Work like crazy, get a wide range of experiences, push for more and more responsibility. That was what I did.”

On building his career: “I was in the thick of seminal events in healthcare. I was involved in the HIV therapies that helped turn the corner of the crisis. I became involved in emerging markets, when they were exploding with growth. Was traveling a lot, working ungodly hours. At that time, I felt that being the best professional I could be was the way to also be the best possible parent.” 

An epiphany moment. “I went off on a long business trip and when I came back, it was clear. Our boys were growing up, fast. It hit me. My father didn’t get to spend much time with me before he died. It was time for me to be the father who could show his boys the right way to be men when the world seemed hell bent on showing them the wrong was.”

Sharing passions, Part 1: “Our oldest boy is now 14. He’s a musician, a drummer. Straight jazz. I love talking music with him. Miles, Monk, Cobham, we can go on for hours about the greats. He’s picked up on the music of my generation, although I get the eye roll when certain songs from the 80s come on!”

Sharing passions, Part 2: “My younger son is 12. A history buff. We choose our road trips and even our overseas vacations so that we can see history where it happened. I love debating him on the ‘What ifs?’ ‘What if Kennedy hadn’t gone to Dallas?’ ‘What if the D-Day invasion had been stopped at sea?’”

Living through his kids. “Maybe a little bit. I wanted to be a drummer when I was young. I had to learn the violin instead. I didn’t steer my son into drumming, but I didn’t exactly fight it either.”

The treasury of modest moments. “Spending more time with my family means catching moments I might have missed. The great conversations while waiting for the school bus. The drum solo that rallies the audience. The at-home rehearsals for fifth-grade presentations. Robin Williams called these moments ‘the good stuff!’ And they are.”

The ripple effect: "I’ve been reflecting on my own health. I don’t want to make any exit before I have to. I’ve been trying to do better, day by day. A little more exercise. A little less sugar. Being in the moment when I eat. Not being a martyr, but also not taking a pass on what I can control.” 

On modeling leadership: "I have five people on my team. I realize that it’s impossible in our business to avoid times when we have to make some sacrifices on the ‘work’ side of the ‘work-family’ equation, but I try to pick my spots. Respect for people starts with respect for people’s time.”

On staying at work to impress others. “We all did it. We’ve learned better. I’ll take someone who understands how to set and balance priorities over a workaholic any day of the week.” 

On his future: “When it comes to saving and healing more people, we in biopharmaceuticals have a once-in-a-generation opportunity. I’ve seen it face to face—people around the world can reach a dream they once thought beyond their reach: better health, not just for themselves, but for their kids and generations beyond them. I’m working smarter and spending more time with my kids, but I want them to understand that work is meaningful for me. Better world health is part of the legacy I can pass on to them.”

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